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Climate Change Affecting Okavango Delta and Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana

19.7S 22.8E

March 29th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Rivers, Salt Flats

Botswana – March 29th, 2013

The Okavango Delta (upper left quadrant) is a large inland delta in Botswana, produced by seasonal flooding where the Okavango River spills into a trough in the endorheic basin of the Kalahari Desert. Summer rainfall (in January and February) in Angola’s highlands drains southward through the Okavango River. This water then gradually spreads over the delta from March to August, peaking in the last three months, in which the delta swells to a large, swampy marsh of three times its permanent size. This image was taken in late March, approximately one month in to the flooding period.

The delta is important to Botswana for several reasons, including being a home to many plant and animal species, revenue generated through tourism, and use by local communities for water, fishing and agriculture. However, climate change is affecting the delta through declining precipitation and increasing temperatures, causing flood patterns and water channel distribution to shift. Reduced inflow could result in swamps drying out and forests being replaced by grasslands, causing local animal species to migrate or become extinct.

Also visible here, near the right edge, is the bright white Makgadikgadi Pan, a large salt pan in the middle of the dry savanna of northeastern Botswana. One of the largest salt flats in the world, it is all that remains of the huge, ancient Lake Makgadikgadi. For much of the year, most of the area remains waterless and extremely arid; however, it floods during periods of good rain, attracting wildlife. As it is linked to Okavango Delta by the Boteti River, reduced inflow in the delta region can also affect the ecosystem of the pan.

Future of Okavango Delta, Botswana

19.7S 22.8E

February 12th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Rivers, Wetlands

Botswana – January 26th, 2013

The Okavango Delta (upper left quadrant), in Botswana, is a large inland delta, formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough in the central part of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari Desert. All the water reaching the Delta is ultimately evaporated and transpired, and does not flow into any sea or ocean. Each year approximately 11 cubic kilometres of water spread over the 6,000-15,000 km² area.

Scientific studies have suggested that the river flow could decrease by over 26% by the turn of the next century, due to climate change, particularly changing precipitation patterns in Angola. Changing precipitation patterns will result in changing flood patterns, which would devastate an ecosystem built around predictable winter floods. Furthermore, an increased evaporation rate in the Kalahari will reduce total surface area that the flood can reach and accelerate its disappearance (click here to read more).

Fires in Angola Northwest of Botswana’s Okavango Delta

14.4S 21.1E

September 4th, 2012 Category: Fires

Angola and Botswana – August 27th, 2012

A smoky haze hangs over central-southern Africa, particularly near the upper and left edges of this image. In the full image, many individual fires can be discerned in Angola, many of which are located northwest of the Okavango Inland Delta (bottom center, in Botswana). The plumes of smoke from those blazes are blowing due southwest.

Makgadikgadi Pan and Okavango Delta in Northern Botswana – May 3rd, 2012

20.6S 25.3E

May 3rd, 2012 Category: Lakes, Rivers, Salt Flats

Botswana - April 15th, 2012

The large white area near the center of this image is the salty surface of the Makgadikgadi Pan. Located in northern Botswana, it is the largest salt flat complex in the world, covering approximately 16,000 km2.

Visible to the northwest of the pan is the Okavango Delta, also in Botswana. It is the world’s largest inland delta, formed where the Okavango River empties onto the terrain of the Kalahari Desert.

Visible to the northeast of the pan is Lake Kariba, the world’s largest human-made reservoir by volume, with a storage capacity of 185 cubic kilometers (44.4 cu mi) and covering an area of 5,580 square kilometers (2,150 sq mi) and . It is located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Okavango Delta and Lake Ngami, Botswana – January 22nd, 2012

20.4S 22.7E

January 22nd, 2012 Category: Image of the day, Lakes, Rivers, Wetlands

Botswana - January 6th, 2012

The Okavango Delta (or Okavango Swamp), in Botswana, is the world’s largest inland delta. It is formed where the Okavango River empties onto a swamp in an endorheic basin in the Kalahari Desert, where most of the water is lost to evaporation and transpiration instead of draining into the sea. Each year approximately 11 cubic kilometres of water irrigate the 15,000 km² area.

The Okavango Delta is produced by seasonal flooding. The Okavango river drains the summer (January–February) rainfall from the Angola highlands and the surge flows 1,200 kilometres in approximately one month. The waters then spread over the 250 km by 150 km area of the delta over the next four months (March–June). The flood peaks between June and August, during Botswana’s dry winter months, when the delta swells to three times its permanent size. Some flood-waters drain into Lake Ngami, which is visible here at the center of the bottom edge.

Lake Ngami is an endorheic lake in Botswana north of the Kalahari Desert. It is seasonally filled by the Taughe River, an affluent of the Okavango River system flowing out of the western side of the Okavango Delta. It is one of the fragmented remnants of the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi. Although the lake has shrunk dramatically beginning from 1890, it remains an important habitat for birds and wildlife, especially in flood years.

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